Archive for April, 2012


“Thanks, Zombie Simpsons!” – The Cruise Industry

Chalkboard - A Totally Fun Things Bart Will Never Do Again

“Don’t forget to check out the galley.  That’s real shag carpeting!” – Captain McAllister

The title of yesterday’s episode, “A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again”, is a reference to a famous 1996 David Foster Wallace article for Harper’s, in which he embarked on a giant luxury liner to experience the narrow, selfish, and vapid thinking that underlies the modern cruise industry (as well as the bland and mostly uninteresting people who think of it as the height of fun).  It’s an enjoyably cruel piece of writing (it was later used as the headline piece to a book length collection of essays he published), and you can read the whole thing in PDF format.  The subtitle is “On the (nearly lethal) comforts of a luxury cruise”, and the main point is that cruise vacations are mercilessly inhuman. 

Wallace held the cruise industry in utter contempt, and not without cause.  It’s environmentally disastrous, ethically compromised, and generally unpleasant on anything deeper than a surface level.  The spectacular sinking of the Costa Concordia in January is only the most high profile of the industry’s problems.  Two years ago, they kept sending tourists to their fenced in resorts in Haiti while people were dying in earthquake rubble.  Crew members, who work long and extremely stressful hours, routinely disappear without a trace.  And just a few weeks ago, two fishermen died on their disabled boat when a cruise ship failed to rescue them even though the crew had been alerted by passengers to their presence.  In other words, this is an industry that places a higher priority on cheesy lounge acts and shuffleboard than it does on human life, and it is ripe for parody and satire. 

David Foster Wallace knew that the only way you could say something honest or interesting about cruise ships was by reveling in the ugliness that props up that gleaming facade of stark white hulls and perpetually happy people.  Zombie Simpsons borrowed his title, and then did the opposite, making their cruise out to be so awesome and perfect that they actually wrote a song about how awesome and perfect it is.  I realize it’s not their job to do exposes on irresponsible corporate behavior, but by sticking with such a sunny perspective they limited themselves to only the safest and most tame kinds of comedy (when they were bothering to attempt humor at all). 

Of course, the episode did eventually descend into post apocalyptic chaos (and I thought we were done with the “Outlands”), but only after acting as an unpaid and unquestioning endorsement for most of its run time (and concluding that the only way to have a bad time on a cruise is to take one with Bart Simpson).  And, it goes almost without saying, no part of the episode made the least bit of sense, from the completely unnecessary (and exposition filled) scenes where the family paid for the vacation, to Bart’s panic after the song, to the immediate descent of the ship into Mad Max 4: The Wet Warrior, to a quick sketch or two in Antarctica.  Along the way, characters wander in and out of scenes for no discernable reason, the plot swings wildly from one idea to another, and most of the stabs at being funny are paint-by-number bricks like this:

Lisa: It’s so diverse!  I’ve died and gone to a PBS kids show.
[Kids in wheelchairs roll up out of nowhere.]

And this:

Marge: You’ll never guess how many bath towels they gave us.  Enough!
Bart: And there’s a DVD library of movies that haven’t been released yet!  Whoa.  Whoa.

The episode wasn’t completely without its charms, “Magazine Hater” magazine is pretty clever, and the cult of the lifeguard isn’t a terrible idea.  But, again and as usual, the stuff that has a little bit of thought to it is drowned in a sea of garbage that can’t rise to the level of being semi-clever or even coherent.  When this is your ending . . .

Best Vacation Ever!

. . . the ship has irreversibly foundered. 

Anyway, the numbers are in and they continue to be historically bad.  Only 5.00 million viewers sat through last night’s infomercial for Carnival and company before hitting up the buffet.  That ties last year’s “The Great Simpsina” for the fourth lowest number ever.  The post-New Year’s episodes of Season 22 generally hovered around six million viewers.  Season 23 is down to five million, and routinely fails to get even that many. 


Quote of the Day

Bart of Darkness5

“I wish you’d stop spreading bad rumors about people.  Remember how you got Grampa tarred and feathered?” – Marge Simpson
“Sure, that was twenty minutes ago.” – Bart Simpson
“Gonna be in the tub for a while.” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson


Sunday Post: A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again


Image bloodied by Dave.

It’s that time again:

In this mouth-full of a title-d episode, when Bart sees a commercial for the ultimate cruise, he begs his parents for a family vacation. Low on cash, the only way they can go is if each family member sells one valuable. Once they’re away, Bart is determined to make the vacation last forever. So he comes up with a plan to make sure they never have to return home.

I anticipate a well plotted piece of non-claptrap that never makes me want to wretch.


Quote of the Day

Stark Raving Dad9

“Aw, she looks sad.” – Leon Kompowsky
“That’s cause she knows you’re looking at her.” – Bart Simpson
“Although I’m aware you’re looking at me, I would look exactly the same even if you weren’t.” – Lisa Simpson

[Initially scheduled this for pm instead of am.  Whoops.]


Quote of the Day

Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily8

“Where are we going?  Where are we going?” – Marge Simpson
“Okay, okay, don’t panic.  To find Flanders, I just have to think like Flanders.” – Homer Simpson
“I’m a big four-eyed lame-o and I wear the same stupid sweater every day and-” – Homer’s Brain
“The Springfield River!” – Homer Simpson


Reading Digest: Long Reads Edition

Lisa the Iconoclast8

“To celebrate our bicentennial, all twenty of you will write an essay about Jebediah Springfield; and the best eighteen will be put on file in the school library, available to anyone who requests them.” – Miss Hoover

Quite a few people took to their keyboards this week, producing thoughtful and well written tracts about various topics from Poochie to “Bart the Genius” and the slippery nature of hero worship.  On top of that, we’ve got lots of usage, an old story from Sam Simon, a couple of fan made drawings, two links to upcoming crappy merchandise, and a solicitation for people who can do Marge and Lisa impressions. 


Exclusive: "Simpsons" Co-Creator Sam Simon On The Show’s History With Gambling In "All In: The Poker Movie" – Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week is this clip from a new poker documentary.  It’s part of an interview with Simon where he talks about how real sports handicappers complimented him on “Lisa the Greek” as a show that, unlike the rest of teevee, was credibly written by degenerate gamblers.  Apparently, at some special screening, they used to change the voices for whichever teams were in the Super Bowl that year.  Lisa was right three straight years before they stopped.   

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company Presents MR. BURNS, A POST-ELECTRIC PLAY, 5/28-7/1 – That play about people recreating society through The Simpsons after the apocalypse is finally premiering in Washington, D.C. at the end of May.  It runs through July.

‘Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie:’ Totally in your face – An appreciation of Poochie.

A Reflection on Hero-Worship – As usual, The Simpsons shows the way:

Though we no longer tend to engage in the open power worship of a Carlyle, we yet have a need to make heroes. If one was to make a massive generalization, the Victorian era was the time of power worship and the late 20th/ early 21st century is that of victim worship. The wittiest and most succinct illustration of this I can recall, and one that often reoccurs to me when I witness the phenomenon, is from an early episode of The Simpsons:

Homer: That Timmy is a real hero!

Lisa:  How do you mean, Dad?

Homer: Well, he fell down a well, and… he can’t get out.

Lisa:  How does that make him a hero?

Homer: Well, that’s more than you did!

Excellent usage. 

15 Big Little Things You Can Do in 15 Minutes – Excellent usage:

6. Complain/get angry. When Homer Simpson went to purchase a gun and was told that there was a mandatory five-day waiting period, he yelled in protest, “Five days? But I’m mad now!”

Branson Invites You to "Come On Down" – Moderate usage:

Branson, Missouri, once described by Homer Simpson as being like "Las Vegas if it were run by Ned Flanders" is actually getting an injection of genuine Vegas glitz. No, not the Spearmint Rhino — it’s Branson, remember — the Las Vegas stage version of "The Price Is Right Live" will open in Branson this July.

Bart recounts Homer’s description as “My Dad says it’s like Vegas, if it were run by Ned Flanders.”  More importantly, there’s a stage version of “The Price Is Right”?  Heaven help us. 

HOMER SIMPSON CANVAS PAINTING – Live in Queensland, Australia?  This cool fan made Homer painting can be yours for only $30.  I like the drool and the hammock, but since when does Homer read books?

Angry Birds Space adds ten levels – Simpsons could be next – Oh good, another tie in.

Former producer speaks of his humble beginnings – Simpsons alum Joseph Boucher gave a talk at Cal State Fullerton.  Not much fresh information here, but plenty of encouragement for anyone wanting to get into animation.

Simpsons – McBain, These are Loafers – I’ve always liked the way Wolfcastle just bends straight over and stares right at his shoes. 

Talkin’ Softball – Baseball season’s started, and someone put up a new copy of the song on YouTube.  There’s also this:

I have a fairly short list of ‘favourite things’.

  • Baseball
  • The Simpsons
  • Beer
  • Freinds & Family
  • Playing Guitar
  • Animals
  • Eating Food

But I’m lucky because most of these things mix very well together:

  • Baseball (watching it, anyway) + Beer
  • Family & Friends + Beer
  • Beer + Eating Food + (with) Friends and Family
  • The Simpsons + Friends and Family (watching it together)
  • Playing Guitar + Beer
  • Simpsons + Baseball

“Simpsons + Baseball”?  I’m intrigued.  I’ve always wanted to try playing a real a Simpsons rules softball game, but where would you find a park that would let you set up a keg at first base? news: Five takeaways from Seahawks’ pre-draft presser – The Seahawks GM apparently lapsed into a Homer impression during a press conference.  Sadly, no video.

Fox at 25 & Growing Up With The Simpsons – There’s some Zombie Simpsons in here, but I do enjoy this:

I was living in Canada during those years, the ’90s, and I remember having this English teacher who, as far as I could tell, didn’t really teach us much, but would stand at her podium, lecturing us about the ills of the world. She would fill us in on the details of the war in Kosovo, denounce America as a nation of gun-toting buffoons, and–frequently–get into a tizzy about how awful The Simpsons was. “Completely inappropriate for children,” “racist,” and sexist” were a few of the charges she levied against the show–and, in her criticism, she wasn’t too far removed from the show’s detractors in authoritarian China and Venezuela, and its critics in the United States, a country that she hated so much (I’m sure the writers of The Simpsons would have found a delicious irony in this). At the time, I reasoned that if someone like that–my teacher–hated the show so much, then it must be even better than I realized.

My teachers hated The Simpsons, which, of course, just made us love it all the more.  Ah, memories. 

Fox’s 25th Anniversary Special…In 10 Words – And we can’t watch FOX because they own those chemical weapons plants in Syria. 

Happy National Pretzel Day; AKA A Dark Day For Baseball – YouTube of exactly what you think it is.

#16: Margetini – A fan made sketch of Marge as a martini.  That’s all well and good, but what’s in it?

Simpsons Sums Up: The Vampire Diaries – Again, I’m taking Lenny’s word for this, but that guy on the bottom is smashingly handsome.

What it pays to teach your kids – Excellent usage:

If you’ve seen the episode, you’ll recall Homer Simpson’s devastation as he pulls from under a bed not the last peanut he was searching for – ”overflowing with the oil and salt of its departed brothers” – but a $20 bill. Until, that is, he remembers ”money can be exchanged for goods and services”, so $20 can buy many peanuts.

Doctor Robotnik Meets His Match, Sort Of – I chuckled. 

Voice Over/Impressionists – Seeking Lisa Simpson and Marge Simpson – A New York area Craigslist posting:

Seeking VO artists or impressionists who can do a great Lisa and/or Marge Simpson impression. We need a small number of lines recorded in their likeness for a proposal project.

Good luck, those are not easily duplicated voices. 

HAHA ! I WIN! – Animated .gif of Homer taunting Marge with her own affection from “Lisa’s Pony”.

It Happened to YOUUUUUU – A Radiohead infused illustration of Grampa’s “It’ll happen to you” quote.

Which MBTI type are the characters from The Simpsons? – A Myers-Briggs list of Simpsons characters.

Simpsons – Homer ‘Whoop whoop whoop’ walk (gif) – Just what it says it is. 

Four Nights Of A Dreamer (Quatre nuits d’un rêveur) – Allow me to help:

Throughout the film, there are several instances of brilliant philosophical dialogue. The most important of these, insofar as it sets a framework for the film and, simultaneously, reflects on Bresson’s aesthetic tendencies, is the conversation between Jacques (Guilliaume des Forets) and his artist friend. They speak about what I — and several distinguished writers, including Noel Carroll — now consider a fundamental truth in the appreciation of artwork: what matters isn’t what is there, but what isn’t. For example, with a painting, art arises from the spaces between the lines — what is not shown — rather than what is physically evident. Even the Simpsons understood this. In an episode I cannot quite recall, Lisa tells Bart to listen to the notes “they are not playing”. In just the same way, it’s the space that is created that instills art.

I believe this is what you’re looking for:

“Sounds like she’s hitting a baby with a cat.” – Jazz Prick
“You have to listen to the notes she’s not playing.” – Lisa Simpson
“I can do that at home.” – Jazz Prick

How Working in a Warehouse Feels While Using an MP3 Player – Animated .gif of The Anvil.

The Forbes Fictional 15 – It’s that time of year again.  Bereft of any decent ideas, Forbes has once again made up a list of the richest fictional characters.  This year Burns comes in at #13. 

Rubies adds The Simpsons – Some company I’ve never heard of got a license to sell adult Simpsons costumes in Europe.  As usual, the marketspeak is knee deep:

Carl Lumbard from Fox Consumer Products has commented: “A key component of the success of The Simpsons has been the appeal, fun nature and recognisable appearance of the iconic yellow characters. Rubies have done a terrific job creating costumes based on the characters from the show which promises to bring a whole lot of pleasure to Halloween and dress up parties everywhere.”

Media and licensing manager at Rubies, Holly Oldham, has said: “As costume designers and manufacturers The Simpsons is a dream property. We have absolutely no doubt that Homer, Marge, Bart and Krusty will rank amongst our best selling costumes and we hope that this is the start of a long and very successful relationship with FCP EMEA.”

“bring a whole lot of pleasure to Halloween and dress up parties everywhere”?  Jebus. 

Snapshot: Juan Mata Buys David Luiz ‘Sideshow Bob’ Birthday Cake – Pretty much what it says.  I’m impressed that they got Bob’s hair like that.

Omer Counting in the Digital Age – Modern technology, The Simpsons, and homophonic pronunciation come together to help Jews count the days after Passover. 

The Simpsons, Season 1, Episode 2: “Bart the Genius” – And finally, our last long read of the day is another person embarking on a rewatching of the show.  (Here’s the first one, which I somehow missed.)  I especially like this:

It’s not hammered in by the plot really, but watching this again I was a bit depressed by the implication that a ten year old boy is fully aware that his father’s love for him is totally conditional. Even more depressing is that Bart is absolutely correct. Once he inevitably confesses out of guilt driven how Homer has been doting over him, Homer curses him and chases him through the house, causing Lisa to grimly comment to Marge that things really are back to normal. Who knew that the “reset the status quo” nature of the sitcom could be used to put a bit of tragedy into the proceedings?

That was one of the things that was so great about the show.  Their status quo sucked.  Naturally, that essential misery is almost totally lacking from Zombie Simpsons. 


Quote of the Day

Sideshow Bob Roberts8

“My friends, isn’t this just typical?  Another intelligent conservative here, railroaded by our liberal justice system, just like Colonel Oliver North, Officer Stacey Koon, and cartoon smokesperson Joe Camel.” – Birch Barlow


Quote of the Day

Two Dozen and One Greyhounds9

“Excuse me, we’re having a problem with our dog.” – Marge Simpson
“Lady, I’ll tell you what I’m telling everyone else.  I’m sorry if your dog went blind, but your gripe is with Hartz Mountain, not with me.” – Pet Store Guy


Duff McKagan and Duff Beer: An Internet Investigation


“You said if I slept with you, I wouldn’t have to touch the drunk.” – Titania
“Duffman says a lot of things!  Oh, yeah!” – Duffman

In a Reading Digest last spring, I noted that Duff McKagan, bass player for (among others) Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver, and Loaded, had claimed that Duff beer was named after him.  It came up again last summer, and has been bubbling up on-line ever since.  In addition to it being noted in articles and the like about him, McKagan himself has mentioned it several times.  In an column he wrote:

My name is Duff McKagan, and I play rock and roll music. The beer on "The Simpsons" show was named after me, and not the other way around. (I suppose it is a testament to how much alcohol I used to drink. Yeah, not too sexy really.)

In addition to that, one of those generically crappy radio station “blogs” quotes him in an (unlinked) interview:

”Our management for GN’R got a fax but it was from like an adult cartoon.  Now there wasn’t any adult cartoons in 1988.  There just wasn’t and like, ‘an adult cartoon?’  They want to use your name as the name of the beer on the thing and they just want your blessing.  It’s not like I own the name Duff, I should’ve trademarked that thing on up if I would’ve known but yeah, that think took off, that Simpsons deal.”

And here’s how he put it in his autobiography:

When Guns N’ Roses began to break into the public consciousness, I was known as a big drinker.  In 1988, MTV aired a concert in which Axl introduced me – as usual – as Duff “the King of Beets” McKagan.  Soon after this, a production company working on a new animated series called me to ask if the could use the name “Duff” for a brand of beer in the show.  I laughed and said of course, no problem.  The whole thing sounded like a low-rent art project or something – I mean, who made cartoons for adults?  Little did I know that the show would become The Simpsons and that within a few years I would start to see Duff beer glasses and gear everywhere we toured. 

That last quote caused a brief stir on-line last fall when the book was released.  The first eighty pages were put on-line for free, and that quote appears on page 9.  Just about any time a celebrity puts out a book (or someone puts out a book about a celebrity), one fact/revelation will inevitably be used as the hook to describe it so that people can talk about it without actually having read it.  In this case, that one thing was the Duff Beer-Duff McKagan connection, which was mentioned in articles about the book by everything from little blogs to The Los Angeles Times and The Huffington Post

Now, I don’t particularly care about this.  Whether or not McKagan’s drinking (at one point, he had a championship belt that had Budweiser caps instead of jewels on it) was a factor in naming Homer’s beer “Duff” doesn’t change Duff Gardens, Tartar Control Duff, or Duffman one bit.  However, the internet has a way of mistaking repetition for confirmation, and in the last year this idea has become truthy enough that it gets included as a throwaway fact in semi-respectable publications like Business Week:

How he drank so much beer at one point that Guns N’ Roses lead singer Axl Rose introduced him as “The King of Beers” and a producer from The Simpsons called to ask if he could name the show’s beer, Duff, after him, which they did.

As well as independent blogs:

The name Duff comes from Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan, known for drinking lots of alcoholics.

And the world’s largest source of information, Wikipedia:

In an excerpt from his autobiography, former Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan said that the beer was named after him as the writers were fans of the band and he was known for his extreme alcohol consumption.[3]

That citation, by the way, goes to Maxim’s website, where there’s an excerpt from the book that includes the paragraph I cited above.  The sentence in Wikipedia is carefully worded, but that kind of caution has a way of washing out over time, and experience says that as more people read, write and rewrite the same claim, it’ll become more and more difficult for someone to trace it all the way back to its actual origin. 

As near as I can tell, no one else from Guns N’ Roses has mentioned this story, nor has anyone from The Simpsons ever said anything similar.  That doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t true, but right now “Duff Beer inspired by Duff McKagan” is a completely unsubstantiated claim by a single guy who freely admits he was drunk out of his mind during the period in question, put the word “Lies” in the title of his book, and wrote this in his Author’s Note:

My friends and old band members may remember some of the stories I recount differently than I do, but I have found that all stories have many sides.

In other words, it’s as far from confirmed as it is possible for something to be.  Again, it could be true, but with the currently available information, there’s plenty of room for doubt.  Maybe someone from The Simpsons did call (or fax) them, but was it one of the guys who came up with it, or was it some paranoid junior lawyer in the bowels of FOX?  Maybe someone not from the show called him and told him about it, and over the years his memory changed that to someone from the show.  Who knows?

McKagan is an extremely accomplished, financially secure guy; he has no reason to lie about this.  However, and by his own admission, he does have a lot of reasons to be confused about it.  Therefore, simple prudence says that it needs to be confirmed by one or more other sources before it’s generally accepted.  Unfortunately, right now acceptance is running well ahead of confirmation.  This post likely won’t slow that down, but it’s here if anyone cares to look. 

[Note: I’m only about halfway done with the book (through the time period when this call/fax would’ve happened), but this post is already two days late and Google Book Search tells me that the Simpsons doesn’t get mentioned again for the rest of the text.  If I come across something that changes any of the above, I’ll update this post.]


Quote of the Day

Marge in Chains8

“I’m sorry, Mr. Homer, but it is the policy of the Kwik-E-Mart, and its parent corporation Nordyne Defense Dynamics, to prosecute shoplifters to the full extent of the law.” – Apu Nahasapeemapetilon

Happy birthday Hank Azaria!


Quote of the Day

Bart's Inner Child8

“Wow!  For free!  Surplus drums of mayonnaise from Operation Desert Storm!” – Homer Simpson


Quote of the Day

The Otto Show10

“Let’s see your license, pal.” – Lou
“No can do, never got one.  But if you need proof of my identity, I wrote my name on my underwear . . . oh, wait, these aren’t mine.” – Otto
“Well, that tears it.  Until you get a license and wear your own underwear, mister, you are suspended without pay.” – Principal Skinner

Happy 20th Anniversary to “The Otto Show”!  Original airdate, 23 April 1992. 


Quote of the Day

Radioactive Man7

“Movie stardom is just so hollow.” – Milhouse van Houten
“Hollow?  The only thing in show business that’s hollow is the music industry.” – Mickey Rooney


Quote of the Day

One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish8

“Is it done yet?  Is it done yet?” – Homer Simpson
“Your meatloaf will be ready in eight seconds, Homer.” – Marge Simpson
“D’oh!  Isn’t there anything faster than a microwave?” – Homer Simpson


Reading Digest: Not Worth Reading Edition

El Viaje Misterioso De Nuestro Jomer9

“Oh, why do they have to put all this crud in my newspaper?  World.  The Arts.  Religion.  Ah ha!  Here it is, ‘Kickin’ Back!’” – Homer Simpson

This week we’ve got several links to things that really aren’t worth the click.  They exist, and I think they were worth noting, but having actually read them, I can’t honestly recommend that you do the same.  Of course, there are even more links that are worth your time, including some more minimalist Simpsons designs, several people who agree with us, quite a few lists, what real yearbook people think of Retrospecticus, and a new television show from Harry Shearer that I want to watch. 


Five Ways ‘The Simpsons’ Ruined My Life – The title is a bit of an overstatement for Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week.  It’s really more five things she does because she’s a Simpsons fan (naming a cat that can stand on its hind legs Rory Calhoun is brilliant).  The wedding tables and cufflinks are fantastic. 

The Summer of 4 ft. 2 – Some well deserved love for Season 7 generally and “Summer of 4 ft. 2” specifically.  He shows the episode to the actual yearbook club every year, apparently the fonts joke gets them every time. 

What Do You Watch? Part I – Our old friend ilmozart agrees with us:

I struggle every Sunday, trying to find the funny and legitimize the fact that I still watch it. It gets harder every week. There’s always one or two good little jokes or sight gags, but I compare that to the golden days….and I sigh.


10 Most Prolific ‘Simpsons’ Characters – There’s nothing really worth reading here.  Someone at ABC News looked through IMDb and listed the characters who’ve been in the most episodes.  And since this is link trawling of the lowest form, they actually counted all four talking family members in the list at 500 episodes each instead of concentrating on the more interesting idea of what other characters had been in the most episodes.  For what it’s worth, according to them, it goes Moe (334 episodes), Milhouse (298), Skinner (274), Flanders (271), Burns (237) and Grampa (204).  (via)

Simpsons’ Beer ‘Duff’ Trademark Sought by German Brewer – This is awesome:

Duff Beer, based in Eschwege, Germany, filed a suit with the EU’s general court in Luxembourg, asking the court to overturn a decision by the EU trademark agency that prevented it from registering “the figurative trademark ‘Duff’ in black, white and red,” according to a filing published on April 14.

A Belgian court last year annulled Twentieth Century Fox’s two European trademarks for Duff as misleading because they weren’t registered for an actual beverage.

Good luck, German brewers. 

FOX to Rebroadcast First-Ever, Full-Length SIMPSONS Episode, 4/22 – Pretty much what it says.  They were going to repeat that awful 500th episode, but instead went with “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”.  Wise choice.  I might even tune in. 

Simpsodyne Art Print by John Tibbott – Once again, we have more minimalist fan made Simpsons art.  You can get this one as everything from a framed print to an iPhone case.  (via)

Harry Shearer plays Nixon in ‘The One’: 30-minute show to air on Sky Arts – Harry Shearer’s in a small television show (that’s being broadcast in Britain before America, for some reason) where he plays Nixon and acts out the things Nixon actually said on the tapes in all their racist, warmongering, paranoid glory.  I would watch this in a heartbeat.   

10 Comedians We Aren’t Meant to Find Funny – Our friend Philip has the rundown of ten acts so deliberately unfunny that they’re actually kinda funny, from Fozzie Bear to Steve Martin, with Krusty right in the middle:

His Krusty the Clown Show sketches are the stuff of huge mustaches and pie fights, something that might be written by somebody who grew up watching classic comedians, but could never figure out why they were supposed to be funny.

Paying attention, Zombie Simpsons writing staff?   

It’s Nice That : The Simpsons in chair form from the fascinating 56th Studio – These pretty but uncomfortable Simpsons chairs were linked in a few places this week.  The design is excellent, but couldn’t at least the Homer chair have some padding on it? 

The Real-life Inspirations for 17 Simpsons Characters – There’s nothing terribly new or interesting here, and some of them seem like stretches to me, but here it is anyway.

Homer choking Bart tattoo – Cool.

PRIMETIME TRAINERS 1991-1992 – A longer article about televised shoes from the 1990s notes that the Assassins were ahead of their time, fashion wise.

The Most Mind Blowing Subtle Pop Culture References From The Simpsons [IMAGES] – These pictures of Simpsons scenes next to their famous movie inspirations is old, but it was making the rounds again this week on Twitter and a couple other places.  This one comes courtesy of reader Steve.  I’ve still never seen that old one where the guy falls off the Statue of Liberty.  

Homer Simpson (NSFW) – What happens when you get someone to paint her vagina to look like Homer Simpson?  Well, you get this, don’t you?  (And this isn’t the first time, either.)

Der Simpsons – What about that tattoo on your chest?

10 little-known facts about Ted Nugent – There’s nothing you really need to click on here.  I just thought it was amusing that one of the “little-known facts” about the Nuge was that he’s been on Zombie Simpsons.  How the mighty have fallen. 

Lenny & Steve’s Excellent Adventure Through the 100 Best TV Episodes of the Past 20 Years: Part 5 – “Homer vs. The 18th Amendment” makes the cut at #55.

Simpsons Sums Up: Supernatural – I’ll just take Lenny’s word for this one.

How You Look Playing Monopoly – The various stages of Monopoly as seen through images of Mr. Burns.

My Five Favorite Pilots of All Time (So Far) – Some love for, among other things, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”. 

Pink Panther Pink? Smurfs Blue? Garfield Orange? Brilliantly simple print ads for Comex paint. – There’ve been a few of these minimalist type things in the last year or two, but I don’t think I’ve seen this one before. 

Fandom marks 25 years of ‘The Simpsons’ – Again, I wouldn’t bother to click on this, it’s just some throwaway article on, but it foolishly tries to make this work:

But to highlight how "The Simpsons" writers are still on their game, we’re compiling a few examples of plots from recent years that perfectly capture sports in the 21st century — but would have seemed completely alien to the TV viewer of 1987:

And how well does this indirect defense of Zombie Simpsons go?  Not well.  It only lists four episodes, three of which are only notable for being based around guest stars, and the fourth is that terribly boring episode where Homer and Marge become Olympic athletes.  You suck, Zombie Simpsons. 

Catnip – One of those things you can’t quite remember turns into looped YouTube of Mr. Burns’ condiment dilemma.  (Also, great blog title.)

The Szyslak Shuffle – Animated .gif of Moe defending his fly girl. 

Photo Album – Imgur – Heh, “bread” dog (via). 

Wizard World Toronto Comic Con – Sue’s Thoughts – Among other highlights, this woman got herself Simpsonized at a convention, you can see the result about 2/3 of the way down.

“Well, the evening began at the Gentleman’s club, where we were discussing Wittgenstein over a game of backgammon” – Mr. Simpson, it’s a felony to lie to YouTube. 

Coachella 2012…In 10 Words – I wonder if anyone asked the Pepper’s Ghost Tupac to give a message to Jimi Hendrix. 

Top 5 Dads in Television – Homer comes in at #1 here, and there’s lots of good YouTube. 

10 Best Cartoons To Watch As An Adult – It’s a short list, but Simpsons comes in at #1. 

Simpsons – Greased up Scotsman – Heh. 

Lisa Simpson Should Join Our Book Club – And finally:

This catches my eye because I used to be an avid Simpsons fan. I haven’t watched in well over 10 years, but at one point I had seen every episode and quoted it extensively.

I can assure you, there’s no reason to start watching again. 

As a final bonus, here’s a tweet sent in via e-mail by reader Landry:

Cancel Tweet

That’s pretty harsh, but who am I to disagree?


Quote of the Day

Takei Beefcake

My frame grab from Star Trek 104, “The Naked Time” (1966).

“Now, our game shows are a little different from yours.  Your shows reward knowledge; we punish ignorance.” – Wink

Happy 75th Birthday George Takei! 


Compare & Contrast: March-April Romances

New Kid on the Block14

“She’s beautiful.  Say something clever!” – Bart’s Brain
“I fell on my bottom.” – Bart Simpson
D’oh!” – Bart’s Brain

There are a lot problems with “Beware My Cheating Bart”.  For starters, it’s kinda sexist and disturbing.  Beyond that, it’s further evidence that Zombie Simpsons has turned its kid characters into empty, anti-human nobodies.  And, of course, it manages to lack any kind of story coherence while doing all those things.  What makes it all more glaring than usual is the way “Beware My Cheating Bart” so closely follows the plot, structure, and even jokes of the boundlessly superior “New Kid on the Block”.

One of the most handy things anyone ever told me about sexism was that the easiest way to gauge how sexist something is or isn’t was by reversing the gender roles and seeing how weird or fucked up it would seem.  Applying that little rubric, “Beware My Cheating Bart” fails miserably compared to “New Kid on the Block”.  In the latter, it would mean a ten-year-old girl developing a crush on the fourteen(ish)-year-old boy next door, showing him that his girlfriend was bad news, and then ending with them bonding as friends by making a prank call.  A little unusual, maybe, but certainly not creepy.  In Zombie Simpsons, it would mean a fourteen(ish)-year-old boy flashing a ten-year-old girl, then making out with her repeatedly, hanging around with her in little kid pizza joints, and running about town late at night.  That is creepy, no two ways about it, and that means you might not want to be doing it at all.


Uh . . . yeah, please don’t do that again.

Leaving that unpleasantness behind us forever, the best way to shake off the weirdness of having a character the episode identifies as a “total pre-puber” getting hot and heavy in the privacy of the principal’s office is to remember that it’s been a long time since Bart was anything like a normal kid, and the same goes for Jimbo and everyone else in this episode.  Just in that first scene in the movie theater, we get sitcom-tastic clunkers like this:

Dolph: We’re gonna to be checking out a delightful Hong Kong horror remake known as ‘Crawlspace’, based on Paxing Kongjian.

And this:

Jimbo: Shauna, food for thought, if we don’t watch movies about torture in crawlspaces, how will we know what to do if someone puts us in a torture crawlspace?
Kearney: Not if, when.
Shauna: Nah.  I’m gonna go see one of those Jennifer Aniston movies where she rolls her eyes on the poster.

This kind of stilted, formulaic dialogue is hacktacular on a couple of levels.  First of all, what little humor they’re trying to wring out of these fake movies dissolves away when you have your characters basically explain the jokes as they’re saying them, not to mention the movie posters behind them that do the same thing.

We'd Better Make Super Sure the Audience Gets These

Ha!  That’s what s/he just said.  I get it now!  I get jokes. 

More importantly, nobody talks like this except comedy writers.  None of the characters here act like actual characters, instead they’re little more than animated loudspeakers.  The things they’re saying don’t work in the context of where or who they are; they only make sense if you’re sitting in a room with a bunch of people constantly hurling punchlines at one another.  Zombie Simpsons may not have a laughtrack, but it’d be awfully easy to insert canned laughter into that.  Observe:

Jimbo: Shauna, food for thought, if we don’t watch movies about torture in crawlspaces, how will we know what to do if someone puts us in a torture crawlspace?
[Short laugh]
Kearney: Not if, when.
[Longer laugh]
Shauna: Nah.  I’m gonna go see one of those Jennifer Aniston movies where she rolls her eyes on the poster.
[Long laugh, with subtle amounts of “ooh”]

Each line is its own self contained piece of cheap fluff, and there’s hardly any interaction between them.  Now, consider the first time we see some of the same characters in “New Kid on the Block”.  Bart and Laura are sitting on the curb in front of Laura’s new house while their moms are inside talking.  They don’t spit ungainly cultural references back and forth, instead they actually get to know each other as Bart tries out his little pranks and Laura impresses him by already knowing them.

Similarly, when Dolph and Kearney walk by, they don’t immediately crack some joke that’s intended for the audience instead of the other people who are supposedly right in front of them.  They speak like there really is a girl sitting there, with Kearney trying one of those hideous pick up lines that only seem like good ideas to very naive teenage boys:

Kearney: Hey, baby, how ’bout putting your finger in my ear.
Laura: Well, I don’t know, your boyfriend looks like the jealous type.
Kearney: Hey, what the?
Dolph: That chick’s messing with our minds.
Kearney: Let’s get out of here!

Each line leads directly and necessarily into the next, so not only is this funnier, but it also works naturally with who these characters are and what each of them is trying to do.  Laura continues to demonstrate how cool she is by effortlessly annihilating Kearney’s hapless pass at her, while Kearney and Dolph fail, panic and flee from a girl who’s clearly smarter and tougher than they are.  On top of all that, the audience sees Bart’s crush on Laura deepen after he watches her defeat his tormentors.

New Kid on the Block12

Sigh.  She’s dreamy. 

This sort of thing can be seen throughout both episodes.  In “New Kid on the Block”, Bart and Laura both act like kids their age.  Laura babysits, plays video games at the Kwik-E-Mart, and completely overlooks Bart’s puppy love because she has no reason to notice it.  Meanwhile, Bart falls head over heels, but has no idea how to go about it (in no small part because Homer gets drunk while failing to explain the facts of life to him).  The jokes and humor (Two Guys from Kabul, Escape from Death Row) are inserted into natural interactions for two kids like them to have.

In “Beware My Cheating Bart”, the opposite happens.  What jokes there are get blasted into weird situations, while Bart, Shauna, Jimbo, Lisa and everyone else act like dating weary adults.  They give each other sophisticated relationship advice, know every cliche, and generally act like the same kind of one dimensional characters you’ll find in those eye rolling Jennifer Aniston movies.  They couldn’t be less like real kids if they were played by hard bodied, thirty-something movie stars:

Shauna: I want to find out who I am.  And that’s something only an inappropriately older man can tell me.
Bart:  Well, that is one lucky, creepy guy.

By this point in the episode, I have no idea who these people are supposed to be, or even if they’re still people at all.  When this happens, Jimbo has apparently been patrolling Bart’s back yard for hours on end, Shauna has realized out of the blue that she wants something else, and Bart drops his entire infatuation as though it never happened.  There’s no connection between events, things happen because everyone’s been through this so many times before that, when it comes to what should be the climax of the story, they already know what to do.

By contrast, in “New Kid on the Block”, Bart thinks Laura is finally taking a shine to him when she confides in him that she’s started dating Jimbo.  Bart doesn’t see this coming, and Laura doesn’t realize how much she just hurt him.  Neither of them is really aware of what’s going on with the other because – again – they’re just kids.  Check out Laura’s swooning description of what she likes about Jimbo:

Bart: How can you like that guy?
Laura: I don’t know.  Maybe cause he’s an outlaw.  You know that dead body they found behind the mayor’s house?
Bart: Jimbo killed him?
Laura: No, but he poked him with a stick.

New Kid on the Block13

Hey look!  Characters emoting. 

Just as with Laura’s dismissing of Kearney, everyone here is perfectly in character, and they sneak in that joke about Quimby murdering someone while keeping the dialogue very kid-like.  On top of that, none of them knows where things are going to go from here.  Laura likes Jimbo because she thinks he’s a good looking rebel who plays by his own rules.  Jimbo likes Laura because she’s a cool chick who doesn’t mind when he takes his shirt off.  And Bart schemes to break them apart because he knows that Jimbo is bad news.  Instead of romance veterans who go through the motions, Laura, Jimbo and Bart all act like themselves right up to the end. 

Zombie Simpsons took a bad romantic comedy template, grafted their characters onto it without the least bit of consideration as to why any of them would act like that way, and figured a few semi-clever asides would be enough to redeem it.  The Simpsons knew how to create something better than that, because on that show they understood that having kids act like kids isn’t an impediment to having them be funny.


Quote of the Day

Brother from the Same Planet7

“Tell me more!  I want to know all the constellations.” – Pepe
“Well, there’s Jerry the Cowboy, and that big dipper looking thing?  Alan . . . the Cowboy.” – Homer Simpson


Quote of the Day

New Kid on the Block11

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but everything on the menu has fish in it.” – Frying Dutchman Waiter
“What about the bread, does that have much fish in it?” – Marge Simpson
“Yes.” – Frying Dutchman Waiter

Happy birthday Conan O’Brien!


Crazy Noises: Beware My Cheating Bart


“Bart, could you go get the cupcakes?” – Marge Simpson
“Cupcakes?  Cupcakes.  Yes.  Sweet cakes for all.” – Bart Simpson

As part of our tireless efforts to demonstrate the many ways Zombie Simpsons fails to entertain, Season 23 will be subjected to the kind of rigorous examination that can only be produced by people typing short messages at one another.  More dedicated or modern individuals might use Twitter for this, but that’s got graphics and short links and little windows that pop up when you put your cursor over things.  The only kind of on-line communications we like are the kind that could once be done at 2400 baud.  So disable your call waiting, plug in your modem, and join us for another year of Crazy Noises.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “water weenie”).

In one of the more telling segments of “Beware My Cheating Bart”, all manner of thinly mammary-related foodstuffs are paraded before the audience.  First there’s a suspiciously round mound of mashed potatoes, then Grampa calling Bart a “boob” and talking about chicken “breasts”, and finally Marge bringing over a plate of round cookies with little chocolate nipples in the middle.  The premise of all of this can roughly be translated as, “hurr, boobz funny”.

Now, plenty of people (myself very much included) have a healthy inner 9-year-old that will usually find something like that at least mildly amusing.  There aren’t many parts of the human body that aren’t at least kinda goofy, and there’s certainly no harm in the occasional cheap laugh.  What’s so amazing about Zombie Simpsons is that they managed to screw up even this most basic form of comedy. 

Hershey kiss nipples and noting that chickens also have a part on them called “breasts” are silly and juvenile, but the scene where they do this is anything but.  It gets introduced with a shocked looking Bart accompanied by the string music of suspense, and that’s before Marge and Grampa proceed to inadvertently traumatize him.  Bart spends the whole scene genuinely freaking out, which makes me, the audience member who likes to indulge his inner 9-year-old, unsure how to react.  I can’t giggle playfully because Bart is losing it, but there’s no deeper humor or satire either. 

When Bart goes for the cupcakes in “Duffless”, he’s also traumatized, but there it’s a call back to earlier in the episode as well as a wonderfully salacious Kubrick parody.  Bart’s freak out is part of the gag instead of a distraction from it, so there’s no mismatch between what’s going on and what’s supposed to be funny. 

It’s also worth pointing out that, in the previous scene, Zombie Simpsons resorted to the ye olde tyme movie/television shortcut of we’ll-show-the-girl-from-the-back-because-we-can’t-show-her-from-the-front whereas The Simpsons had a mentally conditioned 10-year-old reach for actual sugar tits on network television.  One of those displays a great deal more creativity than the other.

Duffless3 I still can’t believe they got away with this.  The Standards & Practices people are not the sharpest knives in the network drawer. 

Charlie Sweatpants: Ready to begin?

Mad Jon: Oh sure

Dave: Indeed

Charlie Sweatpants: Shall we quickly dispense with the couch gag? I thought it was cute, but it went on too damn long.

Mad Jon: And weirdly depressing, even with the happy ending. Nothing like watching a cartoon couch kiss it’s child goodbye before committing garbage-cide to get me in the mood for a comedy

Dave: Having had the pleasure of ignoring much of this season, I did think the gag was, as you say, cute.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, the idea of Homer actually having sex with a piece of furniture is a little odd. I confess myself slightly impressed that they got that on television, but about halfway through I was pretty much ready for it to be over.

Mad Jon: It did drag on.

  But that’s pretty standard nowadays.

Charlie Sweatpants: Indeed it is. Witness the "flame war" between Shauna and Comic Book Guy.

That could’ve been kinda funny, instead they dragged it out way too long, and had them dancing around each other instead of just standing there ignoring each other before one of them declares victory or something.

Mad Jon: I suppose that’s how it ended. I couldn’t tell what CBG was rattling on about.

Or why he let them in and acted un-CBG before calling Jimbo.

Charlie Sweatpants: Or why Bart would think to go there in the first place.

Were they planning on hanging out there all night or something?

Mad Jon: Perhaps.

  Why Bart thought that CBG would allow that at all is also confusing.

Charlie Sweatpants: I dunno, though since the entire Bart falls in love with a teenage girl thing was beyond nuts, I guess I shouldn’t nitpick.

Mad Jon: This is a romance that started with Bart commenting on how he wasn’t ready, then led to a makeout montage.

Dave: It happened already. With another one of Jimbo’s girls. Better the first time.

Mad Jon: This one was slightly more graphic.

Charlie Sweatpants: And made less sense.

Mad Jon: I dunno how I feel about Bart seeing boobs.

Dave: In what sense?

Charlie Sweatpants: The thing is, they didn’t even need the romance angle. Bart and her could’ve just become friends, like he’s the kid brother who tells her Jimbo’s no good for her or something. The whole romance/make out/visual second base thing just makes it weird and less believable without being in any way funny.

Mad Jon: Yeah, probably

Charlie Sweatpants: Jon, was there more to your boob thought, or was that it?

Mad Jon: Not really, it just felt a bit greasy.

Charlie Sweatpants: The whole thing was greasy. Real greasy.

Mad Jon: What really agravazes me, was the mall shoplifting scene.

Not only was that idea a whole plot in the worst episode ever, he has no fear of shoplifting, defying the guard, and then blowing up the mall jail somehow. All with absolutely no consequences.

Other than then getting to see boobs.

Charlie Sweatpants: All true, but Bart’s behavior throughout this episode see-sawed back and forth between little kid and capable adult.

He’s terrified of getting back to his house because the bullies are in it, then he’s in the treehouse and they’re down in the yard. He’s nervous around Jimbo, then he’s suddenly telling Shauna what to do. If this episode was the only thing you knew about him, you’d think he was bipolar.

The mall security guard was annoying because, well, everything here was annoying. They created an unnecessary situation, then literally blew it up when they couldn’t think of another way out of it. Quite frankly, I think the whole thing was to get the Segway in there, but that’s just a guess.

Mad Jon: I can see the Segway angle.

Charlie Sweatpants: And while we’re on the subject of jokes and one scene characters that sucked and went on too long: the lifeguard.

Mad Jon: Yeah, that happened didn’t it?

Dave: I’m shocked they bothered to write a series of jokes about that at all, seeing as the first wasn’t particularly funny.

Mad Jon: Low hanging fruit I guess. As rotten as it may have been.

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t know where they were, I don’t know who he was supposed to be, I don’t know how Bart escaped after they had him tied up with water weenies, the whole thing stunk out loud.

Mad Jon: Yeah, why Dolph and Kearney let him go made no sense. But meh.

Charlie Sweatpants: Why Marge had them hang up the laundry also made no sense. I’m not honestly sure there isn’t a single scene in this episode that did make sense.

  For example, even at the very beginning, I can think of no earthly reason Bart would actually go see the little elves movie. Not a single one.

That goes for the Marge and Homer plot too. The whole Lost thing was lame, and Marge not knowing what Homer was doing defied even this show’s standards of stupid.

Mad Jon: So what? Marge and Homer’s marriage was threatened by a TV show that was cancelled years ago?

Charlie Sweatpants: It was more Marge was mad at Homer for lying to her, though since she has to have an IQ of about seventy to not have known he was lying, it didn’t have much kick to it.

Mad Jon: What do you think he did with the treadmill after he got caught and it disappeared?

Charlie Sweatpants: Um, treadmill gnomes? I don’t know.

Mad Jon: Did you guys realize that the first horn music showed up when he got the fortune from the cookie?

Charlie Sweatpants: I didn’t, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

There was plenty of that kind of fake suspense throughout. Like, what was with Lenny, Carl and Moe at their house near the end?

Mad Jon: At the discussion group that ended in an armed standoff?

Charlie Sweatpants: I get that none of them even remotely resemble real people anymore, but they treated that like it was normal. It was just weird.

  Did we lose Dave?

Dave: No I’m here

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh, good.

Dave: Just not contributing as much as I ought to be

Charlie Sweatpants: Enh.

Mad Jon: I wouldn’t feel bad about that if I were you.

Charlie Sweatpants: Nor I.

Dave: Ha. Thanks.

Charlie Sweatpants: Honestly, I don’t think there’s much left to talk about. I mean, the A-plot was weird and only really had one element, Bart and Shauna getting into trouble. The B-plot was rankly stupid and only had one element, Homer freaking out about their terrible Lost takeoff.

There just isn’t much more here. Even by their standards, this one is hollow and simplistic. It’s not even manic enough for there to be some really insane things happening.

Mad Jon: Ralph did crash a cop car into a tree under the supervision of the Chief of Police.

But again, that didn’t really shock me.

  By the way, was the make out in disguise montage something I should have recognized?

  You know, the one that had Bart driving a nice car around?

Charlie Sweatpants: There was one bit that I think was supposed to be Rain Man, but other than that I’m not sure.

Mad Jon: Oh well.

Charlie Sweatpants: Wow, I just realized that this episode so numbed my brain I didn’t even notice Bart or Ralph driving cars.

Mad Jon: One led to the other, but it doesn’t really matter.

Dave: If I saw that, I’ve since suppressed it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Best to keep it that way.

  Anything else?

Mad Jon: I got nothing. That was an unhappy 22 minutes for me.

Dave: It happened, and now it’s done. We get to move on again. For a little while.

Charlie Sweatpants: How Zen.


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